PARIS — Call it a return to refinement.
After emphasizing more casual, rustic looks a year before, exhibitors at last week’s Première Vision trade fair, which wrapped up Saturday in Paris, showed spring 2004 fabrics that had a more refined and classic feel, complete with bright, clean color. “Casual is definitely going away,” said Maurizio Sarti, sales manager at Sarti. Selections there included linen and cotton blends with a clean, satin-like finish.
Laurent Garigue showed structured, more compact looks in a variety of natural fibers that included cotton, linen and silk. “The finish is very natural and doesn’t take away from the way the fabric was intended to look,” said Garigue.
Color — and consequently, prints — was also key. Vendors showed vibrant reds, oranges and pinks, as well as looks in the aquatic blue and green families. Jakob Schlaepfer showed colorful prints, including one with an aqua blue background and bright red motifs on textured hemp. At Bucol, prints were “definitely more of a focus for us this season, especially small-scale looks on silk cigaline,” said Francois Damide, who serves as president of the U.S. business of Bucol and Soltiss.
Parisian designer Jerome L’Huillier said he was excited about all the color: “Yellow, turquoise, pink, orange and red, these colors are going to look great on all the fabrics I want to use for spring 2004 — chiffon, muslin, georgette, satin and jersey.”
On the other side of the color spectrum, vendors also showed a more natural palette that included khaki, ivory and brown, highlighted again with color. Both Luigi Boggio Casero and Sarti offered notable abstract jacquard textures in these tones.
Many exhibitors and attendees complained about the timing of the show, contending that it was scheduled too early in the season. They said the scheduling — just five months after the last edition — prevented them from having their entire lines ready.
“We have about 85 percent of our collection but still it’s very difficult for us to really develop an entire line in this time, given that there is Christmas and New Year’s right in the middle,” said Nicola Boggio Casero, principal at Luigi Boggio Casero. “Also, for our customers, it’s hard for them to think about spring 2004 during the first week of February when they have spring production problems and a fall show to worry about.”
At Jackytex, president Piero Giachi agreed: “It’s an enormous mistake to have the show so early. It’s impossible for us to do all the things we need to do — the research, the development and the testing of a new line — in such a short amount of time.”
With only 60 percent of his collection ready for the season, Giachi also added that customers are hesitant to buy when a line is incomplete: “The novelties take the most time to create and without them, it’s difficult to create interest in the line.”
At Solstiss and Bucol, Damide said the number of buyers visiting his stand was off 30 percent from last spring’s level, which was already low to begin with, since it happened just months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
He said he believed the early timing hurt attendance.
“I understand it’s not the only factor, given the political climate and the economy,” he said. “But I think PV has to really listen to their customers in order to remain the leader in this industry.”
Designer Yeohlee, one on a short list of Americans who attended, said she was disappointed in the selection.
“In general, most of the mills I saw had only about 60 percent of their new collections and of that, nothing was really new,” she said. “I can’t blame them though, there is simply not enough time to develop ideas. I now have to see many of them in New York come March, which negates even going to PV. One mill I saw was in the middle of still producing fabric for the shows in Milan next week.”
Some vendors said late February or early March would be better timing. Yeohlee contended the event should be held after the Paris runway shows. “That would make it more fair to all designers and would give the mills an extra month, which is critical for creating newness in a line.”
Daniel Faure, president of Première Vision, said the show’s dates were the result of tight schedules at the Villepinte exhibit hall where it is held. He said the venue was completely booked at later times.
“We locked in these dates two years ago,” he said. “We know it’s too early and are willing to accept that we made a mistake, but the problem is that if it’s good for one market, it’s bad for another. Not all markets work on the same schedule so it’s impossible to please everyone.”
Next spring’s edition, he noted, is set to start on Feb. 24, giving the mills an extra week and a half to work on their collections.
But he pointed out that grumbling about timing is perennial: “Ever since the show started, we’ve heard complaints about the dates, it’s nothing new.”
Sophie Véron, marketing and development manager of Guigou, agreed with Faure.
“It’s been the same story for 30 years, the show is too early or the show is too late,” she said. “It’s an unproductive attitude — when you’re creating fashion, you have to always be working.”